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Wildlife Officials Say Conservation Dollars Disappearing

wildlife summit
Aaron Kunz

Idaho’s Fish and Game Department told stakeholders this weekend they are losing funding for valuable wildlife conservation programs. This weekend’s public summit was held to get some help from the people they serve.

Hundreds turned out for the first ever Idaho Wildlife Summit. Herb Meyr from Mountain Home attended all three days of the summit and agrees that Idaho Fish and Game needs more funding.

“I do believe that our resident hunters need to pay more for our hunting and fishing licenses to make sure that our fish and game department doesn’t go bankrupt,” Meyr says. 

Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore says less money could mean fewer employees. They intend to keep wildlife conservation programs in place but quality could be affected if the agency doesn’t get more money.

Here’s the problem, more than half of Idaho Fish and Game’s budget comes from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses. In recent years, the department has sold fewer licenses which means less funding.

But more people are recreating outdoors and they don’t pay license fees. Moore says common ways to get more funding is to raise taxes and fees.

“Other states have done that. It’s been a variety of things from specific wildlife lotteries to a portion of the sales tax that was added on," he says.  "I don’t believe those are right for Idaho but I don’t know what is right for Idaho.”

That’s why Director Moore organized this weekend’s summit. Now he’ll put the ideas into a report and ask the public to weigh in in a few months. The report will also be given to Idaho lawmakers during the next legislative session. 

The department is still accepting citizen input online.